My gender is for mothers
My mother refuses my gender in 2 different languages
I cannot comprehend the weight of both
So when I first tell you that I love you
It will be the first time I can tell someone in a way that is understood
My mother was born in a U.S. Naval base in the Philippines
She has grown up with
Little wars and defeats that cannot be drowned across oceans,
I understand that to survive
She cannot keep losing
So everyday, I let my mother refuse my beauty in
Two different languages
And I understand both
So when you lay beside me and whisper,
“You are beautiful”
Letting my brown skin blend into the cradle of your arm around me
And the shoreline of my waist washes into the fit of your other palm
My sobs will soak your forearm salty with my shame
How dare I give you this
And take myself away from my own mother
She gave me everything
She has burned so much of what she was meant to become
Trying to keep me safe
So when I learn of bruises
From your past lover
Clinging to the places I will catch you
Sometimes with my hands
Open and gentle
When the world wants my body to only learn fists
And for yours to apologize for
Long hair and thick hips
My gender is for unlearning
All of the violence taught against femininity
I will honor the women whom we are taught are
“Too difficult” to love*
This gender is for my mother
And she doesn’t even know
Between you and her
I am choosing whose heart to break
“With the body I have”**
And the gender she thinks I don’t
My short hair and contradicting breasts
I just want to be good
I just want to be good
I want to tell her that on the days I feel like my body will never let me
Sometimes I want to give myself back to her
So when you tell me that you love me,
Remind me that the best thing that anyone’s ever said to me was that
I am “whom every mother would want their daughter to date”
When you remember that
This world was built against this gender on this body
And that the odds are against love and safety
I will trace the big dipper onto the soft canvas of your back
Watch constellations wrinkle gravity at the brimming outstretch of your smile
Catch curves folding under covers with my earthbound hands
And crumple the sky’s hemline to custom-fit your palms
When this world will not fit our safety
I will give you the universe with my fingertips
And the most gentle bends of my body
This is all I have to give
When gender is imperfect
When I wish they would let us love perfect
I will love you
With all my gender
*From Warsan Shire’s “For Women Who Are Difficult to Love”
**From Kavindu “Kavi” Ade’s “IT”
What does the title, “Emerging poet,” mean to you?
I actually feel like so many of us are poets when we don’t even realize it. I’ve been asked before what I would say to someone who is trying to write their first poem, and I’ve said, “This is not your first poem. You have created many poems before” - that time you cared for your struggling friend, when you found little hope sitting in your lowest of lows, times you have enjoyed basking in the heat of the sun. I think “emerging poet” can mean that you are realizing that you’ve been a poet all along.
Do you consider yourself an “emerging” poet? Why or why not?
I guess based on what I just defined as an “emerging poet,” I do consider myself one. I think it’s a continual process to believe that I am capable of voicing anything. Everyday, my confidence shakes. So everyday, I’m an “emerging poet” - someone who realizes they deserve to be heard.
What do you think it takes to be “recognized” in the poetry community?
Sometimes the recognition goes to those who deserve it, in my opinion - multiply-marginalized poets who write truths that people need to hear to create a better world. However, I think poets who have the most social capital, power and privilege, and manipulative behaviors get a lot of the recognition; systems were built to work in their favor, so of course they will benefit. I think it’s important to challenge that and uplift multiply-marginalized poets so we aren't recreating or rewriting systems that keep us all down.
How do you think power politics shape the poetry community?
I think I touched on this in the last question, so I will just mention one of the effects of power politics that I extremely hate.
I've encountered poets that seem to think that because they write about social justice that they are absolved from applying that same social justice to their lives - as in they end up being horrible people. So hypocritical! Why would you write about social justice and then treat people terribly off stage / off page?
What does community mean to you?
Plainly put - people that got your back while you got theirs.
NIC MASAGNKAY is a 25-year-old, multiply-marginalized performing artist and music producer based in Seattle. With poetry Buzzfeed claims “will leave you speechless” and music The Seattle Times reports is "synth-pop with overlaid vocals in the style of Reggie Watts," Nic is incredibly grateful that anybody wants to listen to the art that they create to survive. Embraced by Seattle’s LGBTQ writing community at 18-years-old, Nic has since gone to slam and feature locally and nationally in cities like Olympia, Tacoma, Everett, Portland, Los Angeles, and New York. Nic aspires to one day develop a nonprofit recording studio that specifically serves LGBTQ communities. In all aspects of their work, they hope to bring justice and wholeness to themselves and the people around them.